Former Singapore International Film Festival director Lesley Ho dies of cancer, aged 77

Mrs Lesley Ho (left) with other members of the Singapore International Film Festival organising committee in 2007.
Mrs Lesley Ho (left) with other members of the Singapore International Film Festival organising committee in 2007. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Mrs Lesley Ho, a former festival director of the Singapore International Film Festival, has died. The Australian was 77.

According to a Facebook post by her daughter, Liese, Mrs Ho died on Sunday (July 30) night after a 4½-year battle with cancer.

In the post published on Monday (July 31), Liese wrote: "Passed away late last night after a four and a half year bitch fight with cancer. An extremely rare kind of sarcoma which made her very special she used to say.

"It is not a shock that she's gone. But it's so surreal. I am so amazed that she hung on for so long. But then again, no, because she was always such fighter, a such high achiever and so resilient all her life."

Mrs Ho, who had been living in High Range, Australia, for the past five years, is survived by her architect husband Charles and their three children, Liese, Armanda and Justin.

Justin tells The Straits Times that his mother was "an amazing and extremely tenacious person". He says: "When the doctors first diagnosed her, they said that she would have only four months to live. But it had been four years on - she was a strong woman."

Mrs Ho was known for being a key member behind the Singapore International Film Festival from its inception in 1987 up to 2007, when she resigned as the event's co-festival director.

Ms Teo Swee Leng, who served as her co-director at the time, remembers Mrs Ho for her "great passion" for film and the arts.

She tells The Straits Times: "Most people only know about the programming of the film festival, but behind the scenes, Lesley was instrumental in running the event and getting things together. She was extremely committed in terms of engaging the Government for funding, engaging new audiences and engaging with the press. Lesley made sure things were well looked after."

Besides the film festival, Mrs Ho was also one of the founding partners of Palm's Wine Bar in Holland Village in the 1980s, which was touted to be Singapore's first wine bar.

According to her son Justin, his mother moved here at the age of 21 after tying the knot with her Singaporean husband. He says: "They had planned on staying in Singapore for only six months before returning to Australia, but she just loved it so much in Singapore that she would go on to stay here for the next 50 years.

"To me personally, she was a courageous and adventurous mother, but I believe that she also blazed many trails and contributed a lot to Singapore."